Did you know that the cold call is not unique to sales? It happens in the class room as well. When a teacher asks a question of a student who hasn’t raised their hand you can feel the temperature drop, because you’ve got a cold call in action. The teachers’ goal is to keep her students attention by introducing the possibility that anyone can be asked to speak at any time. By doing so she hopes to reduce the chances the students will be preoccupied and tune out. I probably don’t have to tell you what some of the students are really thinking.
Now there are a couple of ways a teacher can play this. The first way is to name your target right up front.
“Alan, tell me, why does it make sense to use content marketing here?”
The second approach is to ask the question first, then pause for a long time before calling out the name.
“Can you elaborate on the use of content marketing in this example ………… Alan?”
The longer the pause between the question and the student’s name, the more time every other student spent formulating an answer, and therefore, thinking about the question. In addition, the second question has a softer sound without the “why.” Finally, as time passed, perhaps the look on Alan’s face let the teacher know he wanted to share his thoughts. And if that was the case, it wasn’t really a cold call, but the perfect delivery of a strategic question to create a dialogue. The second approach wins hands down from my perspective as both a student and associate faculty member.
We Don’t Make Cold Calls
In regards to the sales process, there are some who say that they don’t make cold calls. That they start conversations from white paper downloads or that they work by referral. But every call, in a sense, is a cold call. Your audience is usually preoccupied at the moment you approach, and you must help them transition from what they are thinking about to what you want them to talk about. Basically, you’re interrupting someone’s day to get something you need out of them: information, a meeting, a demo, you name it. When you think about it, most people dread that type of interruption and will look for ways to block the dialogue. In fact, research suggests that when you are cold calling, you’ve only got about 10 seconds to get a prospect’s attention from the time she says, “Hello.” So, how do you build conversation bridges to warm up the connection?
Questions are the Answer
No, not those type of questions. You know; the blatantly obvious types that come across like a major crimes interrogation. “You do want to increase revenue while decreasing costs, don’t you?” They may be a suspect, but you’re not going to qualify them as a prospect if you offend them or they tune you out. And certainly not the completely insincere opening question, “How are you today?” Conversational bridge building questions allow you to showcase your knowledge and experience in helping them identify possible needs without putting them on the defensive. I like imagine “what-if-you” questions that suggest mental pictures and help get your prospect emotionally involved.
“What if, you could quickly recycle content into new marketing material 90 percent faster?”
“What if, your new marketing content was automatically filed for you for easy distribution?”
These types of questions help you build a story that is unique and different from what your competition can do. And just as questions in advertising persuade people to read the rest of the copy, they can serve the same purpose of cementing attention in the sales call. The questions you select for your approach should create immediate interest, be different, cause the prospect to forget that you have just interrupted him or her from another purpose, and lead smoothly into the rest of the conversation. Are you currently preparing questions in advance of a call? The questions you ask can be more important than anything else you say.